Thursday, March 31, 2016

After Richard...St Augustine Jan 3-7, Salt Springs Jan 7-11 , and Gamble Rogers/Flagler Beach...before Karen's

As we left Richard's I cried silent tears as I knew that this time I would miss him more than the last. Even if we would see him in 2 months!  Our 2 days spent in Jupiter with family for New Year's were delightful and we got to spend time with everyone who is there (Tad is in Costa Rica) and enjoy warm weather.  The day we left was a little cooler though and by the time we got to Winter Park there was a noticeable chill in the air.  The next day as we prepared to leave I was back in long pants though still wearing sandals and thusly we set out for St. Augustine.  Hahahaha!  One would think with the plethora of weather apps and the frequency with which we read them that I would not have been so surprised by the COLD we encountered when we arrived, the WINDS that whipped the sands I had planned on resting upon to lie in the sun and the FACT that winter in northern FL gets cold but one would be discounting my  inability to compute that which I would rather not accept.  So, we drove into Anastasia State Park, found our site, tucked (quite literally as I had to maneuver the MoHo in a serpentine motion to get us under the branch) ourselves into the site and headed out to the beach.  Yellow means caution, purple means dangerous sea life and sand that whips your ankles, regardless of how fascinating the patterns it creates, gets into everything including cameras so it was a short visit.  But, it was beautiful and with beach time not in the plan we had the town to see.

On the way back to the campground though we, because we were riding our bikes, rode up the road where the winds were not as bad and came upon a fisherman who had two rather weird looking storks standing right next to him.  He explained that they came every time he fished at this spot and waited for the scraps he sent their way.  Later, after I Googled them, I found out they were Wood Storks.  They are endangered and are the only stork native to North America. 

He allowed me to get right up "in his face" for his close up

St Augustine is a great city, which feels like a town.  The first day was beautiful, if chilly and we walked all over.  We started with lunch at La Herencia Café, a Cuban-American restaurant on Avilés St and had one of those lunches that is just enough to reenergize without making one tired, so we were able to walk for the next several hours admiring the town.  We decided to leave the fort for a "warmer day" (who were we kidding?  We'd checked the weather forecast for the next 10 days and KNEW there was rain and more cold coming!) and stocked up on groceries before returning to camp.  
Bridge of Lions

The next day we adopted the movement of sloths and did absolutely nothing.  Well, we read between naps and I went to the concession to try to use the WiFi to upload pictures but it was so slow I gave up. However, I forgot that meant I could return to the warmth and comfort of the MoHo and ended up sitting for 2 hours freezing as the winds lashed the pavilion where I was huddled.  I had a blanket around my legs, another around my shoulders and my hands could barely move before the realization that I did not need to be there!  We did both go for bike rides when our sloth became embarrassing even to one another and the pets got their walks but it felt like a thoroughly wasted day!  

On Wednesday, we, braving the driving rain and continued (not quite) gale force winds (20-25 MPH or 5 on the Beaufort scale) went back to town.  On Monday, though cold, there were crowds all over.  Wednesday?  Not so much.  Even the main shopping drag - St George St-was virtually deserted.  But, we had a list of places to see.  We started at Villa Zorayda which Don enjoyed and I didn't.  
Purported to be modeled after Alhambra (in Granada, Spain) I found only the Moorish architecture to be reminiscent of that fabulous place.  There was just too much "stuff" and having been to so many good museums, I was disappointed.  

We then walked through the campus of Flagler College, the main part of which was originally the Ponce de León Hotel, and that I loved!  From there we wandered over to St George St. again and ate at the fabulous Columbia Restaurant.  Don couldn't decide what cuisine he wanted and I liked the look of this place so we went in and ended up having a wonderful lunch.  I had Mojito Chicken-yes mixing rum, lime juice, mint and sugar and making a glaze on chicken is a VERY good idea and Don had a more traditional Chicken with Yellow Rice.  



We then walked over to the fort, AKA Castillo de San Marcos.  Even with the rain and the winds whipping our hair around and people's raincoats sounding like luffing sails in a yacht race it was excellent.  The NPS has done another good job with signage and displays about the history as well as the architecture. Several cannons were on display in the inner courtyard and on the ramparts, and while I admire the craftsmanship I am always a bit perplexed by the beauty and attention to detail on weapons of destruction. Cannons are no exception. While I am sure a Ranger tour would offer more information, we were able to learn plenty before climbing to the ramparts and seeing the garitas, or sentry boxes, as well as the views. As we looked out we could see the surf beyond the entrance to the inlet whipped up and huge rollers coming in. 

Having been battered with the wind long enough we got to the last item on the list: the Visitor Center. Yes, the place most people visit first.  The information we saw there we'd seen in the other places we had visited but there was a beautiful modern interpretation, by Guy Harvey(bottom), of a 1630 map of Florida and Vicinity, by Dutch cartographer Johannes De Laet (top.)

On the way to the Visitor Center is the Huguenot Cemetery.  Hmm, I thought, I was always taught that one of my ancestors, Phillipe deLannoy, was the first Huguenot in the US, where did these guys come from?  Well, there was a French expeditionary group that had landed at what is now St Augustine in 1564.  They (300 persons) moved up the coast a bit (present day Jacksonville) and established Fort Caroline for France.  When Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés y Alonso de la Campa (full name)was sent to the New World by his monarch, King Felipe II of Spain, he happened to head north after getting to the coast of Florida and came upon a small fleet of these Frenchmen.  He threatened to kill all the non-Catholics so they sailed on. Sadly for them they were hit by a hurricane and shipwrecked.  They washed to shore and then walked up to Anastasia Island (which is where our campground was) right across the water from St Augustine.  Mr Nice Guy captured them and then killed all of them except a few who said they were Catholic.  This slaughter was known as a matanza, Spanish for slaughter, and driving around St Augustine one sees Matanza Rd, Matanza Inlet, Matanzas (Massacre) River, even Matanzas Restaurant.  The slaughter of 200 people who were the "wrong" religion is memorialized well. Oh and Don Pedro? He set about declaring Florida (by which I mean the land that extended from where Florida is today, west to the Rio Grande and north to the Yukon) for Spain and then headed back to Fort Caroline, which he destroyed along with the lives of all Huguenots who had not fled, including those who tried to surrender.  I found myself hard put to admire this heralded "founder of St Augustine." But such is the history of victors and the vanquished.

There are two cool things on the grounds of the Visitor Center.  One is a huge stone ball covered with moss that marks Mile 0 of the Spanish Trail which stretches from St Augustine to San Diego, CA.  The other is a fountain of 6 masks that was a gift to the City of St Augustine by its sister city, Avilés (birthplace of Don Pedro) in Spain.

And thus ended our day in St Augustine.  I had to go to McDonald's to take advantage of their free Wifi so I got my $1 iced tea and uploaded away and then on the way back to the MoHo noticed that the Anastasia Lighthouse was lit and shining into the cloudy evening, so I ran up there for some pictures and then back to join my husband and pets for a relaxing evening as the wind continued to whip the trees above us.  Luckily we were not being buffeted by them because of the protection afforded by the huge live oaks that surrounded us. 

Although we were leaving at 1pm on the 7th, we still wanted to see the Fountain of Youth.  I honestly have no desire to be young again, I know the story we were taught in our youth is a myth but I was interested to see the historical landing spot of Ponce de León (1513), the first Spanish settlement (1565) and the Timucuan village, that are all on this spot.  The site is commercialized and some of it is quite schlocky, not to mention borderline offensive when speaking of some of the history, but the historical aspect of it, the signage and the archeological work is interesting and worthwhile.  Right next door, across the water is a TREMENDOUS cross marking the first Spanish Catholic parish the Mission de Nombre de Dios. (Name of God Mission.) The grounds of the Fountain of Youth are also home to a rather sizable flock of peafowl-cocks and hens, brilliant blues, greens and white and they are quite accustomed to humans taking their pictures.  

Once again, the winds were up, the temperature down and after spending time walking around the site and then talking to two couples from Stratford, Ontario, Canada who were also cold, we grabbed a quick lunch, hied back to the campground and readied the MoHo for departure for our next stop Salt Springs National Recreation Area in Ocala National Forest.

I begged him to display so I could see him in his glory...

He didn't disappoint.

This guy was a total bully.  He was chasing 3 peahens AND several cocks.  Charging them and shaking his tail feathers. Quite a show.

Mission de Nombre de Dios

Timucuan dugout canoe

Timucuan pottery done in historical patterns and styles

The original Spanish settlement 1565

Salt Springs

When we started, and throughout, this journey I have told people that we are following the "flip flop highway."  It's a term a friend coined many moons ago when we were discussing our shared dislike of winter in Boston and one we both swore we would "walk in our golden years."  And pretty much since last April that's what we had done...until January 2016.  I KNOW it's northern FL and they actually do get "winter" here but we had then had cloudy, grey skies with cool weather for a week and I as glum.  

We liked Alexander Springs so much when we were there before picking up Richard that we changed our reservations on the west coast to Salt Springs (Alexander's slightly more northern sibling) in the Ocala National Forest.  When we left St Augustine, after virtually freezing our buns off for 4 days, we hoped that even with the same weather forecast, minus the winds, we'd have PERHAPS some sun.  But, no.  So there I sat moaning and groaning because the warmth I wanted and the sun I needed were absent and despite getting many long ignored tasks out of the way, a couple of bike rides and the ubiquitous laundry finished, I felt like we did nothing.  It was too cold and dreary to kayak something I'd looked forward to since the kayaking at Alexander Springs had been spectacular and there it looked like it would be as good with little eddies and lots of birds. But, it was not to be. 

The campground, although there is not much privacy between sites, was quiet and nice and the people are all friendly.  There are a lot of people from out of state and "of golden years" taking advantage of our being able to camp for 50% off in federal lands but please don't picture a bunch of people with walkers and wheelchairs.  Every other car has kayaks and/or bicycles and every hour there are people running, walking with pets and a number of gatherings at night.  Don didn't feel well one day and I was engrossed in an excellent book (The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah) so other than FINALLY organizing papers to be filed, doing some paperwork and even cleaning we have taken advantage of time to wind down.  It struck me the other day that if we were living in a house we'd think nothing of spending days doing little but with our traveling and wanting to take advantage of seeing each place we tend do feel lazy if we're not out doing something.  (And it's a handy excuse for not cleaning-which admittedly takes only an hour stem to stern.) 

One morning at the springs, which are as crystal clear and bright blue as the others have been, we noticed large schools of fish gathering around where the spring comes up from below.  There are two areas where it is visibly bubbling up and in both the fish were gathering.  Every so often a fish would jump and I was able to capture one (photographically) and a number of splashes of the ones I missed.  Interestingly, and maybe because they are so plentiful, the cormorants and ducks seemed not to be very interested and sat without diving on pilings.  We walked up a small inlet and talked for awhile with two guys who'd rented a skiff to go fishing while an egret sat unmoving on a tree no more than 50 feet from us.  The only time he moved was when a small fish jumped and splashed but the egret only turned and extended his neck.  

A 200 year old Live Oak

Fish swimming into the cave

Jumping Fish

As I sat writing that day the clouds came in again and then left with patches of blue sky but the winds picked up and the temperature dropped.  I wrote this: So, I am hoping that our movement tomorrow to the coast-only a bit south and east from here will not bring more of the same. But for now I think will go have some cheese with my whine. and then the next day: So, as usual Phoenix had me up at 6am and what a change.  I knew it would be colder since the heat had come on several times overnight but, while it was 65 F/18 C yesterday, this morning it is 42 F/5.5 C.  The sky was clear with millions of stars twinkling above with Venus, and Saturn nearby, brightly shining. The day was sunny and bright, a bit warmer but we had to leave for Flagler Beach and Gamble Rogers State Park...

OK, yes, we saw the ocean in St Augustine, but the wind was so bad it was really all about getting from one stile to another to get away from the wind. Besides, when we got to Flagler Beach, on our way to Gamble Rogers State Park, we were driving on A1A which runs along the ocean, right beside it with the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway AKA the Intracoastal on the other side.  Rolling waves, dunes and stiles over them leading to the beach for 4 miles until we turned into the campground which is on the "river side."  There are two parts to the Gamble Rogers State Recreation Area.  On is RIGHT on the ocean but those sites are extremely hard to get since people will book them the DAY hey come available 11 months before. Most of us full timers don't plan that far ahead so unless we know exactly where we must be on a certain date, we cannot make reservations.  BUT, sometimes people get lucky and there is a cancellation.  We did not but we spent some time talking to a couple that had and what a glorious spot they had.  Ours was not bad though.  In fact, sheltered from the winds and getting to watch the sun set over the Intracoastal was a treat and the place is spotless.
And we loved Flagler Beach!  Part of the fun was getting to not only to reconnect with a high school friend who I'd seen the year before but having a delicious lunch at her daughter's restaurant, the Blue Heron Bistro, right on Flagler Beach. We took long walks on the beach, had dinner at a beachside cafe and Don rode his bike one day while I did laundry and cleaning.  It's a place we want to return to and spend more time. When it's warmer...

Herring Gull

Least Tern

At this point we'd planned to go to Melbourne Beach and Long Point Park.  You'll see in the next post, On the Road Again, why we didn't.  We ended up spending the next 2 months at my sister's again having the time of our lives.


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